I opened my eyes, feeling like Id just watched a nightmare. A strange feeling burned in my chest, a hollowness, like I had lost something really precious to me, but did not know it yet. I felt tears filling my eyes, and I blinked them, feeling them trickle down my cheeks. Something was wrong. I could feel it. Like someone had cut out something from inside my very soul.
Pushing myself up from my bed, I looked around myself in surprise. The memories of the night came flooding back, and yet, as I looked outside the window from my chamber, I saw a city bathed in snow.
It took me a second to find out what the feeling was.
I could no longer feel any connection to the Old man. My heart dropped a beat, the entire world sinking around me as I felt a deep ache go through my soul, but I refused to believe it. I turned towards the door and stepped out.
Servants jumped around, some panicking at my awakening, others rushing around to inform whoever they needed to. I didnt know this place, but I could tell that I was in the castle.
I walked around, my steps rushed as I pushed the door aside to the Lords chamber, walking in.
Lu Jie, youre awake? The Lord asked, looking at me in surprise.
I bowed my head. Apologies my Lord. But I need to know something, I said, feeling my heart starting to race. What What happened to the old man.
The lord looked at me, and his expression spoke every word I did not want him to.
No. No, I did not believe it. I refused to believe it. I could not accept this.
I stumbled back, shock and grief overtaking my body, as I reeled from the impact of the moment, my body shivering for a moment.
No, no no no, this could not happen. How could how
He fought against Yang Shen, and freed the Azure Dragon. But his injuries were heavy, and Im afraid the price he had sacrificed was not possible to regain, the Lord said.
I stared at him, stared in utter disbelief. Words refused to form in my mind, as I felt tears gathering my eyes.
It was then when I felt a hand rest on my shoulders.
Boy, whyre you crying.
I nearly jumped out of my skin in shock, but instead my body froze entirely, as I turned back to look behind me. The old man stood there, wrapped in bandages, looking far older than I had ever seen him. He stood with a hunched back, and his wrinkles had increased, but there he was, alive.
Hes alive, but barely. And without the Azure Dragons return it is hard to say how long he has, the lord replied.
Are there no princes or such? I asked. Typically even the smallest kingdom had a line of succession laid out.
No, the emperor could not have kids. He adopted some a long time ago, but that was centuries before, we havent had a prince or princess since. There are some procedures for succession to the throne, but the instructions cannot be followed without the Azure Dragon, which is leading to fracturing between the five clans. Weve tried to stave it off as best we can, but someone needs to take authority or the empire will fall from the inside before the demons ever get to us, the lord said.
That was another headache.
The demons were wiped out entirely, it was a small group of the most powerful and stealthy demons. Most of the lords who got poisoned have been cured. Though many have died as well, leaving things in chaos. A large portion of the city was destroyed, but most of all people feel scared now. To be attacked within the palace and be delivered such a devastating blow it is terrible for morale, the Lord said.
That it would be. There was nothing more humiliating than the enemy entering into your house and then destroying things before leaving.
I thought over everything, my mind processing the information.
Whats our plan? I asked the Lord.
Truthfully, there is not much. War is going on, so we will return to the seventh peak to protect our people, the Lord said.
I understood that. I wanted to go back and make sure things were alright in the sect as well. But I could also help. Use my knowledge to try and change this war. I looked towards the Lord to try and explain but he raised his hand.
You are free to do as you please, Lu Jie. We will not keep you at our command. This empire needs you, and we understand that very well, the Lord said.
I gave him a thankful nod.
Ill try and get the five families together, I said, looking at the Lord. The weapons Ive been working on will also help. Everyone will be able to fight, including mortals.
Are you sure..? War is not an easy thing, the Lord replied.
I had wanted to avoid this. Wanted to find solutions, and to see a way out of this conflict. But Ive been given no choice, I said, as I turned to face the snowy city outside.
Echoes of destruction and of the fear within the people still swirled everywhere. The heavens above were weak now, weaker than ever before. Someone had to fill the gap.
I steeled my resolve.
They started this war, I said, looking at the lord as I met his eyes. I will finish it.